The A Class started off as an ingenious small car, but has morphed into a bigger, top 10-selling aspirational Audi A3 and BMW 1 series rival.
The current design arrived in 2018 and other than an expansion of engine choices, the car has barely changed since. It’s offered in SE, Sport and best-selling AMG Line trim levels, with a selection of options packages from the £1,395 executive pack to premium plus, costing £3,595.
Engine-wise you’ll find 1.4 and 2.0 petrols, 1.5 and 2.0 diesels and a plug-in hybrid. There are seven- and eight-speed, self-shifting transmissions or six-speed manuals.
DAB radio, air conditioning, alloy wheels and keyless entry are all standard, along with the car’s distinctive twin screen, virtual reality instruments. The safety kit list is a long one, and includes window and driver’s knee–level airbags together with automatic front passenger airbag deactivation if a child seat is fitted in the front. The A Class has plenty of active and passive safety systems including lane keeping, speed limiting and pedestrian detection. The car achieved a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.
Inside you’ll find room for five – just. Four would find it a pleasant environment, with pretty good rear passenger head and knee room. Front seat occupants have plenty of space, the driving position is good, and the car is roomier and has better oddments storage space than its mildly claustrophobic predecessor.
The interior is stylish, with only a few elements, such as the row of centre console switches, making it feel slightly cheap.
The dash is clever and sophisticated with distinctive turbine air vents and twin-display control centre with screen (available as 7 or 10.25 inches), steering wheel and touch pad controls. This offers an apparently endless selection of systems, including voice control and, in some versions, sat nav that mixes real world video of roads and junctions with road sign-like virtual reality graphics. Clever and effective.
The 2-litre diesel 220 d AMG Line I drove was zippy (0-62 in seven seconds with a top speed of 146mph) Fuel consumption of 65mpg and emissions of 114g/km are claimed. Its eight-speed, self-shifting transmission was rapid and smooth. The engine was slightly coarse when accelerating, but refined at cruising speeds and provided instant power when required.
Despite being fitted with big, 18in alloy wheels, the ride was firm rather than harsh. It cornered very neatly, aided by quick, accurate steering and it didn’t roll much when being pushed through bends. The brakes were excellent, too.
All in all, the car’s dynamics (the way it rides, steers and goes round bends) are all a big step forward from its predecessor, which was perfectly pleasant but pretty undistinguished.
Blessed with an aspirational badge, nice to drive, easy to live with and packed with clever features and safety kit, it’s not hard to see why the A Class has won Mercedes so many friends.